“ Bridgefoot, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON. CV37 6YY. tel = 01789 297697 „
Things ‘are a changing’ at Whitbread – once known as a brewing to hotels combine, they have recently disposed of their breweries to the Belgian giant Interbrew; and have done the same with their non-restaurant pubs. Well what has this got to do with the Pen and Parchment? Well this pub is/was part of Whitbread’s Hogshead chain, which caters for the real ale fan. Who knows what the new owner will have in store? My advice is therefore – if you like real pubs – get down there before the atmosphere is ruined! So where is it and what is it like? The Pen and Parchment (P&P from now on) is located at Bridgefoot next to the Stratford-upon-Avon canal towards the south of the town. The Tourist Information Centre is nearby on the left, and the Bridgefoot Car Park and toilets are behind it. If you leave the pub and cross the busy road, you will encounter Bancroft Gardens where you can sit on the grass in the summer and feed the ducks/swans by the River Avon. Just in front of the pub is the starting point for the Guide Friday bus tour. Its not a difficult pub to find and if you park in the nearby Car Park you will no doubt find it by accident. The pub is quite old, dating back to the 1780’s. I only know this because there is a wall containing the names of all the landlords up to the present day. There are picnic benches outside, though I would question the sense in sitting there with the buses coming and going. Upon entering the P&P, there is a non-smoking eating area on the right, and a raised smoking eating area to the right. Although I don’t smoke, I tend to sit on the right because there is more space and it isn’t that smokey. I can’t remember if there was any music playing when I was there at lunchtime. If there was it was very unobtrusive. Unlike many pubs, which have those dark brown round tables with numbers on them, the P&P has a variety of tables a nd seating. I found a high back chair with arms and a huge square table capable of seating 6. Why come to the P&P? For the real ale of course. When I was there, there was London Pride, Tetleys Bitter and Everards ESB on tap. The pub changes its beers regularly and details can be found behind the bar. They also sell cider from the barrel – plus you can sample before you buy. My Mum went for a dry red coloured cider whereas I sampled and then tried a strong cloudy cider. They do a range of reasonably priced food as well. Apart from having a menu, there is a blackboard with a range of special dishes. I opted for something, which was like Toad in the hole, and which came with a bowl of gravy – for dipping your sausage in! The P&P does a range of traditional gooeey pudds like treacle tart and custard, chocolate pud and the like. If you fancy a coffee, they will make you a Costa coffee. Recommended if you’ve had a few too many glasses of rough cider. The toilets are clean and there are pictures of historical Stratford on the wall. The pub feels old – not like the owners have tried to make it that way. But here is the worse part. Visit it whilst you can. The new owners may have totally different plans and may change it for the worse. The real ale might go and it could become a trendy wine bar, or somewhere for posers to drink expensive bottled beer. I’ve nothing against these places – but lets have a variety of pubs for all tastes. Please visit the P&P. On a weekday lunchtime, it’s a very pleasant place to pass the time sampling all that beer. Like most things nowadays – there is a web-site www.hogshead.co.uk where you can do a pub search. The site is a bit gory (colourwise) unlike the pubs, which are a bit more traditional. Its also recommended by the Campaign for Real Ale which is worth a mention!!